Archive for the ‘Colloquia’ Category

Colloquium Today (5/16) at 3:30 PM: Wassink

Please join us for today’s colloquium being given by Alicia Wassink (University of Washington) at 3:30 PM in the Greenberg Room. Department social will follow, and all are welcome!

VOWEL RAISING IN WASHINGTON ENGLISH: WHAT’S THE BAG DEAL?
Abstract: This paper considers the implications for sociolinguistic theory of vowel raising before velar stops in three word classes in Washington state English. (æg) bag, (ɛg) beg, and (eyg) vague are in close proximity for speakers in a three-generation sample. First, using group-level data, we ask whether by-generational differences point to a type of progression through vowel space. The patterns are investigated in terms of three theoretical types of merger. In “merger by approximation” (Labov, 1994:321) one affected vowel, e.g., (æg) gradually approaches another, e.g. (ɛg), or, both move to a spectral “middle ground”. In “merger by transfer,” affected vowels shift to a new phonemic class, word-by-word, without leaving behind intermediate forms. In “merger by expansion,” the ranges of the affected vowels are enlarged, the resulting distribution equivalent to the union of the two ranges. Group-level patterns rule out at least one of the options, allowing us to consider the mechanism of this change. Second, using individual data within generations, we ask whether speakers vary in the type of pattern they show. Can speakers in the same community appear to participate in the change in different ways (e.g., some by approximation, others by transfer, etc.?). If so, is this a problem for characterizing the change?

To test the theories of merger, we use acoustic data reflecting the locations of stable point vowels paired with vowels involved in the change, as well as data for the changing vowels relative to each other. Speakers were partitioned into groups depending on their generation and patterns of raising. Measures included F1, F2, and duration at three temporal locations, allowing modeling of vowel trajectory. However, comparisons primarily utilize an overlap metric (Wassink 2006) that allows detection of differences between the volumes of vowel ellipsoids, providing an objective heuristic for approximation of vowel distributions. We find evidence supporting the conclusion that (eyg)-class forms are reanalyzed in a process of merger by transfer, while the phonological story for (æg) is much more complex. Here, we will see that the data force us to consider the import of vowel trajectory information for the maintenance of phonetic distinction.

Labov, W. (1994). Principles of linguistic change: Internal factors (Blackwell, Oxford).

Wassink, A. B., (2006) “A geometric representation of spectral and temporal vowel features: Quantification of vowel overlap in three varieties,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 119(4), pp 2334-2350

Colloquium Today (5/09) at 3:30 PM: Bonet

Please join us for a departmental colloquium from Eulàlia Bonet (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) – today at 3:30, in the Greenberg Room. A social and dinner will follow.

Morphology-phonology interactions in imperatives with clitics


In different varieties of Catalan, the form of imperatives followed by clitics is longer than the imperatives without enclitics. For instance, the Majorcan imperative cus ‘sew!’ has an extra vowel [i] when followed by a clitic: cus-i#li ‘sew for him/her’. The shape of this extra element, which I will call ‘extension’, varies depending on the type of verb and on the dialect, and it can contain more than one segment; in Formenteran, for example, the same imperative cus with a clitic is realized cus-iga#li. In this talk, following joint work with Francesc Torres-Tamarit, I will show that this phenomenon is better analyzed as the addition of material rather than the result of some shortening operation in the bare imperative. I will also argue that the driving force for the extension is prosodic in Majorcan and Formenteran, two varieties that have stress shift with enclitics. These two Balearic varieties will be compared with Central Catalan, which has no stress shift, and has a less stable extension. The analysis of the phenomenon, within Optimality Theory, resorts crucially to Corrlex constraints (Steriade 1999, 2008), which establish a correspondence relation between candidates and listed output forms, and which compete with prosodic markedness constraints.

Colloquium Today (4/18) at 3:30: Mascaró

Joan Mascaró (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) will present a colloquium today at 3:30 PM in the Greenberg Room. Abstract given below.

IS PHONOLOGICALLY-CONDITIONED ALLOMORPH SELECTION PHONOLOGICAL?

Abstract: There are cases in which the phonetic shape of a morpheme cannot be derived from a single lexical form by phonological processes but has nonetheless a phonological conditioning. These cases pose a problem for theories for which allomorphic choice has to take place at lexical insertion, where the expression of phonological regularities is not available. A minimal natural extension of Optimality Theory gives an immediate phonological explanation to such cases by allowing allomorph selection to take place via evaluation of candidates in the phonology. I will examine some simple illustrative examples and then I will move to more intrincate cases, in particular prenominal determiner and adjective selection in Northwestern Central Catalan which depends on morphological, phonological and syntactic factors. I will also examine alternative proposals, in particular those claiming that all allomorphy is done through subcategorization frames.

All are welcome! Dinner will be served following the colloquium.

Colloquium Today (4/11) at 3:30: Gal

Susan Gal (University of Chicago) will present a colloquium at 3:30 today in the Greenberg Room, with a social and dinner following.

Plain and Fancy: The Role of Qualities in the Analysis of Linguistic Variation

Abstract: Indexicality has been a key analytical term in the understanding of variation. Instead of correlations between co-occurring features and social categories, we now search for the way culturally-formulated identities are linguistically indexed or invoked. The concepts of style and indexicality have been important and productive analytical tools in the exploration of how social meaning is achieved. But some puzzles remain. How and why do people invariably attribute sensual qualities to the variants they recognize, and actually come to hear linguistic forms as being: plain or fancy, thin or thick, big or small, oily or plain, flat or curvy, good or bad? How come such qualities come in pairs? Why are matters of language apprehended in terms more suited to objects (e.g. flat, thick, oily)? This paper examines the construction of such sensuous metaphors for linguistic form and the arrangement of linguistic varieties on qualitative axes of differentiation. It suggests that speakers rely on specific cultural frameworks and a limited set of semiotic principles to recognize, produce and sometimes transform the qualities attributed to linguistic variants, to speakers themselves, and to an array of other, closely related expressive forms: sartorial and bodily signs; interactional “manner” and comportment. The paper presents ethnographic and linguistic evidence from German-Hungarian bilinguals in Hungary and from observations about English made by travelers in the United States in the early 19th century.

Colloquium Today (4/4) at 3:30 PM: Tonhauser

Judith Tonhauser (OSU Linguistics/Stanford CASBS) will give a colloquium today, Friday April 4 at 3:30 PM in the Greenberg Room, with dinner to follow.

What it means to be alone: The role of the Question under Discussion in the Interpretation of Paraguayan Guaraní exclusives

Abstract: A fundamental principle in research on meaning is that the meaning of an utterance is determined as a function of the meaning of its parts, the way the parts are put together and the context in which the utterance is made. Over the past thirty or so years, formal research on meaning has identified several different ways in which context affects interpretation and that, in fact, context-dependence may be built into the lexical meanings of natural language expressions. In this talk, I illustrate the context-dependence of utterance meanings by exploring the interpretation of Paraguayan Guaraní utterances with the exclusive enclitics “=nte” ‘only’ and “=año” ‘alone’ and I argue that the interpretation of utterances with “=año” ‘alone’ depends on context in a way not previously recognized for exclusives in other languages. In particular, I argue that the Question under Discussion not only serves to constrain the associate of the exclusive (Beaver & Clark 2008, Roberts 2011) or to impose conditions on the acceptability of the exclusive (Coppock & Beaver in press), but also contributes to the identification of the property that is exclusively attributed to the associate. As a consequence, utterances with “=año” ‘alone’ can convey a broader range of meanings than e.g. those with English “alone”.

Colloquium Today (2/7) at 3:30 PM: Harizanov

Boris Harizanov (UC Santa Cruz) will give a colloquium today, Friday February 7 at 3:30PM in the Greenberg Room. A departmental social will follow.

On the mapping from syntax to morphophonology

Abstract: What are the atoms of syntax and how do they correspond to words? In this talk I address this question by documenting a certain kind of mismatch between the set of objects that syntax manipulates and morphophonological words. In particular, I provide novel empirical evidence from Bulgarian denominal adjectives that certain parts of words can behave syntactically as (non-branching) phrases. The nominal component of these denominal adjectives is syntactically active in ways expected of typical nominal phrases with respect to their thematic interpretation, anaphoric properties, and interaction with syntactic movement dependencies.However, these denominal adjectives exhibit a number of adjectival characteristics as well. I attribute this kind of mismatch to the application of Morphological Merger (cf. Marantz 1981), an operation that is part of the mapping procedure from syntax to morphophonology. Consequently, I treat denominal adjectives as underlying nominal phrases that are converted into adjectives by Morphological Merger in the course of the derivation, as part of the word formation process which combines a nominal phrase with adjectivizing derivational morphology.

This approach results in the syntactic decomposition of morphophonological words, which leads to a syntactic treatment of at least some aspects of word formation: syntactic objects realized as parts of words and those realized as autonomous words do not necessarily differ for the purposes of syntax. The present investigation contributes to a long line of research on what have traditionally been viewed as mechanisms of syntactic word formation, such as head-to-head movement (Baker 1985, 1988) and merger under adjacency (Marantz 1981, 1988).

Myler Colloquium Tuesday, (2/11) at Noon

In addition to the seminar Monday, please note the following colloquium from Neil Myler (NYU) on Tuesday, February 11 at noon in the Greenberg Room:

Predicative Possession and the Theory of Argument Structure

Abstract: Predicative possession constructions show a bewildering amount of surface variation in their syntax cross-linguistically, which at first sight is hard to reconcile with the idea that there is a constrained relationship between semantics and syntax in the domain of argument structure. In this talk, I will argue that predicative possession can be assimilated into a constrained theory of argument structure that makes room for certain basic insights. These insights, which can be encoded in a variety of different frameworks, are:

a. Possession relations found in HAVE and BE sentences are fundamentally a relationship between two DPs- that is, these relations are not contributed by a verb root, but are rather associated with DP-internal functional heads.

b. Because of this, in order to form a possession sentence (thereby linking a possession relation to tense, clause type, etc.) a “dummy verb” (a copula) must be brought in.

c. (i) Natural Language allows a number of different ways of bringing in such a verb, which has the consequence that possession constructions can vary in the place in the structure where the possessor is introduced.

(ii) The different ways of building possession sentences entailed by (i) could have somewhat different (albeit overlapping) meanings, depending on the semantic contributions of the pieces that make them up.

I will concentrate on motivating the claims under (c), giving two existence proofs (from novel fieldwork on two closely-related Quechua dialects) that these claims must be embraced.

Colloquium Tuesday, Feb. 4 at Noon: Pavel Caha

Pavel Caha (CASTL, University of Tromsø) will give a colloquium this Tuesday, Feb. 4 at noon in the Greenberg Room.

Semi-lexical Categories Revisited

Abstract: It is standardly assumed that an item cannot simultaneously belong to two syntactic categories at the same time. Something either is – or is not – a noun/a preposition/a numeral/… The ‘single category view’ plausibly reflects the common understanding that lexical items occupy the terminals of the syntactic tree, and that the terminals of the syntactic tree have a unique label (X or Y, but not both). However, there are reasons to believe that such a view does not do justice to all the complexities of the categorization problem.

To illustrate that, I revisit some traditional observations (going back at least to Ross’ work from the early seventies) that many items stand somewhere in between the traditional (and prototypical) linguistic categories. The particular cases I will consider correspond to Luganda/Czech analogues of examples such as: in FRONT of the car (P) vs. the FRONT of the car (N); HUNDRED cars (Num) vs. HUNDREDs of cars (N). Such items have been sometimes called ‘semi-lexical’ categories (see in particular van Riemsdijk 1998).

However, the ‘items as terminals’ view has alternatives. In a theory like Nanosyntax (Caha 2009, Starke 2009), lexical items may correspond to a whole set of terminals provided that they form a constituent. If that is so, semi-lexical categories may be understood as items whose lexical specification corresponds to a complex syntactic tree containing (by definition) several terminals with distinct category labels (e.g., [ X [ Y ]]). I argue that if this view is adopted, some curious properties of the data receive an accurate and neat explanation.